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ADA/HVO programs draw enthusiastic support from volunteers, donors

March 17, 2014


Mentor: Dr. Martin Hobdell meets with students in the Health Volunteers Overseas Oral Health Initiative Program in Laos.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—Volunteers continue to share their expertise to help Tanzanian dental professionals improve the oral health of the country's citizens through an ADA/Health Volunteers Overseas program that provides chairside instruction and lectures to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences and continuing education to the faculty.

"This was my first international dental volunteer experience," said Dr. Robert Malloy, an orthodontist in Bozeman, Mont., and assistant clinical professor of orthodontics at the University of Rochester Medical Center Eastman Institute for Oral Health. "I am however a former Peace Corps volunteer. Before becoming an orthodontist, I was a high school teacher in Kentucky and I taught at the Teachers College in Apia, Western Samoa with the Peace Corps in the late 1980s. So I've always been drawn to different cultures and experiences."

Coming from the January cold of Montana, he found the heat and humidity of East Africa to be a striking contrast.

"When I completed my lecture from 7:30-8:30 a.m. on the first morning, a student asked if he could have a photo taken with me," said Dr. Malloy. "It was only after the photo was taken that I realized the light blue dress shirt I was wearing was now dark blue and completely soaked in sweat. It was like that for two weeks. It was just an amazing, amazing adventure."

Dr. Malloy said he had time to enjoy a short safari during a Muslim holiday. "I landed on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the Rufiji River camp in the Selous Game Reserve. I had to be careful in camp due to elephants and hippos wandering through at night."

Dr. Karl Woodmansey also chose the ADA/HVO Tanzania program as his first international volunteer dentistry trip.

"My parents travel internationally all the time and I have some of that adventurous spirit in my DNA," said Dr. Woodmansey, assistant professor in the Department of Endodontics at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. "The world has become a very small place and the world of dentistry is even smaller. I appreciate the opportunity to see firsthand how other peoples approach dentistry, dental health and dental education."

"I chose the ADA/HVO Tanzania program because they speak English there and because I could use my expertise as an endodontic educator to teach dentists and dental students (and not just pull teeth)."

He remembers his first case, trying to use a scratched mouth mirror. "They handed me a mouth mirror and it was all scratched up. It barely reflected light. I couldn't see anything. I asked for a replacement and it was just as unusable. I realized that I take having great equipment for granted. They didn't even have decent mouth mirrors."

Sterilization and reuse of endodontic files was also common, he learned.

"When I asked why they didn't use rotary files, the real truth hit me: they only charge $8 (U.S.) per root canal treatment, so rotary files are unaffordable. They are doing the best they can with the minimal resources available to them. I visited a private dental office that was doing all aspects of dentistry, including endodontics, and there wasn't even any radiography capability in the office. So it was a great eye-opener. These dentists are doing the absolute best they can with what they have available. And they are curious about dental care in the U.S. They have Internet access and see all of the incredible technology available to U.S. dentists and their patients and they are, of course, eager to learn."

Because travel to Dar es Salaam is difficult and expensive, Henry Schein Cares donated $7,500 in 2012 and again in 2013 to help cover the expenses for five volunteers to travel to the program site. Volunteers provide instruction and lectures and assist with revising the current curriculum in oral surgery, orthodontics, preventive and restorative dentistry. Volunteers also have the opportunity to provide continuing education at the annual meeting of the Tanzania Dental Association.

"Henry Schein Cares, the global corporate social responsibility program of Henry Schein Inc. is dedicated to 'helping health happen,'" said Steven W. Kess, vice president, Global Professional Relations at Henry Schein. "Our commitment to improving access to oral health includes education, treatment and capacity building. What better way to expand that commitment and knowledge around the world than to support dental professionals' and educators' ability to volunteer? Tanzania and its dental school are the hub of the East African region and we have helped renovate the facility over the years. We applaud the ADA/HVO initiative and are pleased to support its quality volunteers."

More than 4,600 miles from Dar es Salaam, the first Master's in Dental Public Health class graduated at the University of Health Sciences in Vientiane, Laos, in December 2013 through an ADA/HVO program serving Southeast Asia.

The program was launched in 2000 in Vietnam and expanded to Laos and Cambodia.

Dr. Martin Hobdell, program director and an international volunteer who has focused his efforts on constructing and conducting education programs since 1961, said the results of the program far exceeded his expectations.

"Now we have a trained cadre of providers who can do a lot to help the oral health of these countries," Dr. Hobdell said. "Working with the countries' ministries of health has also helped get oral health issues on the radar with the governments. Working in public health stretches limited resources to reach many people in need of better oral health."

Dr. Hobdell said an important aspect of the ADA/HVO training program is mentoring.

"We devised a mentoring program because it is an important vehicle to help them apply what they've learned in the real world," said Dr. Hobdell. "It was a team effort. The ADA and HVO helped us find wonderful teachers/volunteers who donated their vacation time to help develop curriculum and forge local relationships. They negotiated with the local universities to make the program a reality. And the International College of Dentists should be congratulated for funding the project. It's amazing to find donors willing to take on dental public health, and their support."

"For more than 75 years the International College of Dentists has addressed oral health and education throughout the world," said Dr. Carol I. Turner, registrar of the ICD-USA Section. "The USA Section is delighted to see this exceptional program in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia come to fruition. The real benefactors here are the many patients supported."

The ADA sponsors HVO's dental education programs, and they are managed in collaboration with the ADA Division of Global Affairs. Currently, HVO has dentistry programs in Cambodia, Kenya, Laos, Nicaragua, Rwanda, St. Lucia and Tanzania. Volunteers must be members of the American Dental Association or the Canadian Dental Association with a current license.

To learn more about HVO dental education activities, visit the website, hvousa.org. To learn about other international volunteer opportunities, contact the ADA Division of Global Affairs at 312.440.2726 or international@ada.org.